A couple months ago, my friend Dee-Dee asked if I would take her niece Kelsey’s senior photos. It would be my first official gig as a photographer, and I was excited, but concerned. I don’t really know much about high school, or seniors, or portraits. My own senior portrait still hangs in the hallway at my parents’ house, a bitter reminder of the summer of 1988, when I decided to cross-dress before gender confusion was edgy and hip. I am forever immortalized wearing a thrift store necktie and old man’s cardigan. I’m pretty sure there are horses on my shirt, and I don’t even like horses. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Knowing that I couldn’t rely on my own experience, I started to do some research. I went online and pored over sample shots from portrait studios across the country. I consulted with friends, who were all surprisingly eager to share their opinions on the quintessential senior portrait pose.
“Holding a rose!”
“Chin on fist!”
“Cat burglar eyes!”
“Riding a horse!”
“Cradling a saxophone!”
One thing was certain, I needed to be careful. I didn’t want my first assignment to turn out like Annie Liebowitz’s controversial Miley Cyrus shoot. I made sure Dee’s sister Cheri was there the entire time to supervise. No one was going to accuse me of exploiting a minor. Not again.
Cheri had done her homework and scouted out several different potential locations. The first site took us down a few winding Wisconsin roads and into a clearing. She told us that the narrow path through the woods led to an old stone church.
“Are we going to get eaten up by mosquitoes?” Dee-Dee asked.
“No, once we get to the church there will be a nice breeze so they won’t bother us.”
I’m going to remember that naïve exchange in case I ever find myself in the Amazon and someone asks me, “Are we going to get eaten up by those piranhas?” because my response will be, “No, once all the flesh is ripped from your bones they won’t bother us.”
About five seconds after we stepped into the woods, a wall of fat mosquitoes rose from the tall grasses and swarmed at us with a viciousness and spite I had never before witnessed in insects. The four of us immediately sprinted back to the clearing, but it was no use – the scent of blood was in the air.
“Cheri! Light a cigarette – now!”
She lit a cigarette and blew the smoke at us. It wasn’t working.
“You need to go to town – get us some bug spray now! The poisonous kind – the kind with DEET!”
“Leave your cigarettes!”
Cheri tossed us her cigarettes and sped off to town, leaving the three of us stranded. We couldn’t go back into Dee-Dee’s car because the second we opened the doors, fifty mosquitoes hijacked the vehicle. Instead, we hopped around, wildly swatting at ourselves and each other.
I had been bitten so many times that I started to get light headed, and got a sudden craving for orange juice and Nutter Butters.
“We need more smoke – Kelsey! Get over here and smoke this cigarette!”
“What? I’m not smoking! Smoking kills.”
“That’s the point!”
After what seemed like hours, Cheri finally returned with what turned out to be the last can of Off! in the entire town. She sprayed us all from head to toe with the sweet toxins, and we were free, at least for the moment.
We quickly ran through the path to the church to set up our shots. I knew it was only a matter of time before these mosquitoes mutated to develop a resistance to the bug spray.
“Ahh! I have mosquito bites on my neck!”
“Don’t scratch them!”
“They’re going to look bad in the pictures!”
“I’ll Photoshop them out.”
Cheri and Dee acted as my assistants, helping to set up the shots and lug the step ladder and spray us all down with Off! at regular intervals.
We had only a couple hours to work in five different locations and four wardrobe changes before Kelsey had to get back to her job at the A&W, so time was of the essence. I barked out poses like a drill sergeant.
“Stand by the mausoleum!”
“There’s a tombstone in the background.”
“I’ll Photoshop it out.”
“Smell that daisy!”
“It smells like poo.”
“Okay, just pretend to smell it.”
“Dangle your feet in this murky swamp!”
“There’s a dead carp.”
“I’ll Photoshop it out.”
“Stand precariously on those two wet rocks over by the rushing toxic dam!”
“Brace yourself on that moss-covered tree.”
We were all exhausted by the time we reached the final location, and needed to reward ourselves with ice cream. As I looked over the photos the next day, I was sad that I never got the prayer hands pose, and that we couldn’t find a horse or a saxophone, but all in all, I think it was a success. And not once was I accused of trying to manipulate a minor. Except when I forced her to smoke. And made her kick a dead fish. And told her to sit on a grave.
At least I didn’t make her wear a tie and a cardigan. There’s only so much you can do with Photoshop.
Q: Popping in the second DVD of Season 3 of Weeds at 10:21pm on a school night. Good idea or bad idea?
A: I’ll let you know tomorrow morning.
Watching the second DVD was a good idea. Starting to watch the third one immediately thereafter, however, was not. So, so tired.
I guess now I know what happened to all the Juicy Fruit in the vending machines at work.
Dave, I know you’re behind this. You’ve taken things too far this time. You can hide behind masks all you want, but if you hurt so much as one stick in that Juicy Fruit’s pack… so help me… well, just don’t do it. C’mon, please? I miss my Juicy Fruit! TAKE ME INSTEAD!
As part of my new healthy lifestyle (What? Sometimes I care about my health!), I just finished my third Low Sodium V8 of the day (Now with 70% less sodium than regular V8!). The only thing that would make this better is if it had about 70% more sodium. Oh, and some vodka. Maybe a celery stick. Slim Jim might be nice. Four olives. Nice dill pickle spear. Mmm. I love livin’ healthy!
The lovely and charming Shari emailed me, worried that I had fallen and couldn’t get up since my posting has been so sporadic. But no, I’m not even mostly dead. I did get pretend-engaged yesterday, though, when I found this ring on the floor by the Panda Express in the train station.
Don’t worry, I’m not keeping it. I plan on turning it in tomorrow to whatever sort of Lost & Found black hole they have at the Metra station. It’s not that I’m a Good Samaritan; it’s that I’m scared shitless of what the owner might do to me if she found me. Seriously – this ring is enormous. I have gigantic man hands and arthritic knuckles and my fingers were swimming in this thing.
I may decide to just post a sign myself that says something like:
Possibly gold, but definitely hideous ring belonging to a woman no less than 7’4” who likes Chinese food and public transportation.
Action: I write about how much I love Juicy Fruit gum.
Reaction: The vending machine guy has refused to stock the machines with Juicy Fruit for the past week. And not only that, he’s now stocking two rows with Double Mint. DOUBLE MINT!
Action: I write about how much I hate fist bumping.
Reaction: Michelle and Barack Obama fist bump on national TV and everyone’s buzzing about how down-to-earth and charming the fist bump is.
Clearly, people in high places are reading my blog and conspiring to destroy my life. What’s next? I get an anonymous shipment of pistachios that are all closed shut?
Well guess what? I’m on to you, whoever you are. And now that I know you’re watching my every move, I’m going to mess with you so bad! I’m gonna go all LOLCats on your ass – im in ur hed, messin wif ur brainz!
Maybe what I write about will be true, maybe it will be lies. You’ll never know.
Next week on Run Jen Run:
“Why I hate when people send me money with no strings attached.”
I’m not a paranoid person, really, but just this weekend, I started to think that maybe the world was against me because I was eating a bunch of pistachios and I kept finding ones that wouldn’t open. Is there anything sadder than having a handful of pistachios that you are happily eating and then looking down and seeing that you only have three left so you’d better really savor them, only to find out that two of them are closed shut? There’s really no way to recover from that. It’s like when the last M&M in the bag has a bad peanut in it, and there are no M&M’s left to wash away the taste of that previous rusty peanut. It basically negates all the happiness you got from the whole bag.
I don’t know, I just got really mad about these pistachios and then looked at the bag and discovered that pistachios are grown in California, and I thought, “Big surprise there. Californians have always had it out for me.” I just got so angry at the nuts, and then at the Californians for knowingly packaging so many bad nuts. I was steamed.
But then today, something changed all that. I was breezing through my feed reader when I saw a familiar face… my own. I had won an award. And not just any award, but a major award. A MAJOR award! I won a major award!
Hilly over at Snackiepoo bestowed upon me her coveted “Blogger of the Month” award for June. That’s right, I totally OWN June now, and no one can take that away from me, not even some tight-assed pistachio.
After I got over my initial shock and glee, I remembered that Hilly lives in California, and Hilly clearly doesn’t have it out for me because otherwise she wouldn’t have given me this award. Unless she’s trying to lull me into a false sense of security so that she can trick me into giving her my Social Security Number and start destroying my good credit, but that just doesn’t seem like her style.
So what I learned today is that I was really wrong to demonize all of California just because their pistachios are a big rip-off. It’s just not fair. I don’t hate Californians, I hate pistachios. I mean I love pistachios, but I hate what they stand for.
Anyway, I just wanted to clear the air with California, and thank Hilly again for making my day with this awesome award. I will display my badge loud and proud!